[Advaita-l] BhAvarUpa ajnAna/avidya Part 6 (6) Concluded

Anand Hudli anandhudli at hotmail.com
Sun Mar 21 10:47:04 CDT 2010

Thanks for the informative series on bhAvarUpa ajnAna.


As ChitsukhAchArya says, "अनादित्वे सति भावरूपं विज्ञाननिरस्यं अज्ञानमिति", while 1) having no

beginning (anAdi), that which is of a 2) positive nature,bhAvarUpa, (not merely absence 

of something else) and which is 3) dispelled by knowledge (vijnAnanirasya) is called ajnAna.

He also makes it amply clear that this bhAva rUpa ajnAna should not be confused to be 

really existing. To be precise, it is anirvachanIyA, ie. cannot be categorized as existent 

or nonexistent. However, in practice, as a courtesy (upachArAt), it is spoken as

bhavarUpa, to distinguish it clearly from purely nonexistent entities such as a hare's horn.

 भावावविलक्षणस्य अज्ञानस्य अभावविलक्षणत्वमात्रेण भावत्वोपचारात्

Now, a question arises regarding mUlAvidyA. mUlAvidyA is the cause of adhyAsa or

superimposition of the non-Self on the Self, or the incorrect understanding of the Self. 

However, we are aware of other kinds of illusions in the world. 

For example, seeing a rope as a snake means the snake is superimposed on the rope.

Another example is the erroneous perception of silver in nacre. Is mUlAvidyA the 

cause of such "ordinary" illusions? If so, then to  remove these simple illusions, we 

will need BrahmajnAna and nothing less. But by experience, we know that these illusions

do not require BrahmajnAna to be removed. The illusory snake disappears when we see

the rope as it is. And the illusory silver disappears upon seeing the nacre as it is. No 

BrahmajnAna is involved. So what kind of avidyA or ajnAna causes these illusions?


The advaita texts anticipate these questions and have answered them well. For example,

the panchapAdika vivaraNa says:

मूलाज्ञानस्यैव अवस्थाभेदाः रजताद्युपादानानि शुक्तिकादिज्ञानैः सहाध्यासेन निवर्तन्त इति कल्प्यताम् ।

The material causes (upAdAnAni) of the illusory silver, etc. may be considered to be 

modes (or states, avasthA's) of the mUlAvidyA. These avasthA-ajnAnas are sublated

by knowledge of nacre, etc. (ie. the substratum of the illusion) along with the 

(respective) adhyAsa. 


The mUlAvidyA, also called primal ignorance, has many avasthAs or modes. A mode

correspond to the avasthA-ajnAna or modal ignorance. The avasthA-ajnAna is also 

called tUlAjnAna or tUlAvidyA to distinguish it from mUlAvidyA. The tUlAvidyA is the 

material cause of ordinary illusory appearances such as snake-rope or silver-nacre.

The tUlAvidyA is dispelled by the knowledge of the respective substratum - rope, nacre,

etc. and it disappears along with the adhyAsa. 





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